on the border and nowhere else. The great evil of squatter sovereignty days was now epidemic in its most malignant form. Those days had bred intense hatred between Missourian and Kansan and had developed a disregard of the value of human life and a ruthlessness and brutality in fighting, concomitant with it, that the East, in its most primitive times, had never been called upon to experience. Granted that the spirit of the crusader had inspired many a free-soiler to venture into the trans-Missouri region after the Kansas-Nebraska bill had become law and that real exaltation of soul had transformed some very mercenary and altogether mundane characters unexpectedly into martyrs; granted, also, that the pro-slavery man honestly felt that his cause was just and that his sacred rights of property, under the constitution, were being violated, his preserves encroached upon, it yet remains true that great crimes were committed in the name of great causes and that villains stalked where only saints should have trod. The irregular warfare of the border, from fifty-four on, while it may, to military history as a whole, be as unimportant as the quarrels of kites and crows, was yet a big part of the life of the frontiersman and frightful in its possibilities. Sherman’s march to the sea or through the Carolinas, disgraceful to modern civilization as each undeniably was, lacked the sickening phase, guerrilla atrocities, that made the Civil War in the West, to those at least who were in line to experience it at close range, an awful nightmare. Union and Confederate soldiers might well fraternize in eastern camps because there they so rarely had any cause for personal hostility towards each other, but not in western. The fight on the border was constant and to the death.
The leaders in the West or many of them, on both sides, were men of ungovernable tempers, of violent and unrestrained passions, sometimes of distressingly base proclivities, although, in the matter of both vices and virtues, there was considerable difference of degree among them. Lane and Shelby and Montgomery and Quantrill were hardly types, rather should it be said they were extreme cases. They seem never to have taken chances on each other’s inactivity. Their motto invariably was, to be prepared for the worst, and their practice, retaliation.
It was scarcely to be supposed that a man like Lane, who had never known moderation in the course of the long struggle for Kansas or been over scrupulous about anything would, in the event of his adopted state’s being exposed anew to her old enemy, the Missourian, be able to pose contentedly as a legislator or stay quietly in Washington, his role of guardian of the White House being finished. The anticipated danger to Kansas visibly threatened in the summer of 1861 and the critical moment saw Lane again in the West, energetic beyond precedent. He took up his position at Fort Scott, it being his conviction that, from that point and from the line of the Little Osage, the entire eastern section of the state, inclusive of Fort Leavenworth, could best be protected.